DC Edit | Aryan case exposes flaws, abuse potential in system

The irony of it being the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, a designated “dry day” in the country in honour of the father of the nation

A lot alike the Dreyfus affair, the political scandal that divided France from 1894 for the next 12 years, going on to symbolise miscarriage of justice in the modern European legal system concomitant with then-rampant anti-Semitism, the Aryan Khan drugs case, has exposed a deep, systemic rot in which the common citizen has little power to protect themselves against abuse of power, a rabid media and a brutal society.

After keeping Aryan Khan in custody for 26 days before he finally got bail, a second investigation by the apex drugs-related crime-fighting agency, the Narcotics Control Bureau, finally exonerated Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, and five others charged of possessing and using drugs after they were caught during a raid on a yacht in Mumbai on October 2 last year.

The irony of it being the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, a designated “dry day” across the country in honour of the father of the nation, aside, it was a day when the State and its men in uniform, brutally smothered truth and all notions of fairness when they decided to have a go at Aryan Khan.

No doubt, Aryan Khan was guilty on three counts — firstly, he is young, handsome and rich, caught in a setting of luxury; secondly, he is the son of one of India’s biggest celebrities; and finally, however squeamish and in denial we may opt to be about the ugly truth, he is a Muslim.

The media, especially the electronic media with its farcical prime time debates, had a ball of greater vulgarity and excess than any yacht party could boast of. A perception was created with lies, suggestions, innuendoes and miscontextualisation that he was part of a very large global drug conspiracy and trafficking syndicate. The severe doubts in the prosecution’s case, the denial of bail for so long and the serious irregularities in the procedure raids were totally obfuscated in the people’s court.

Too many people in India too easily believed that they were at a greater threat from an innocent teenager at a party than a system that could frame any citizen at will. Not enough people in India felt that efforts by law enforcement officers and agencies trying to extort money — openly offering threats to “fix” a citizen unless protection money was paid — in a case with no shred of evidence is a larger danger to our democracy.

A special investigation team, which re-looked at the case, has now concluded fairly that there was no evidence for the case against “Master Aryan Khan”, and noted the serious breach of procedure, the calls for extortions and misuse of power.

An NCB team, headed by police officer Sameer Wankhede, which relied on intercepted digital info primarily from WhatsApp chats, went for the kill. Let India know this — if it can happen to Aryan Khan, it can happen to any one of us. We could wake up any moment to run into another extortionist officer, who would create smokescreens and a flimsy case, to be fuelled and amplified into an atmosphere of hatred by a feral media.

It was Alfred Dreyfus over a century ago in France, and Aryan in Mumbai yesterday. Tomorrow, it will be you, anywhere.

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